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Where the 49ers Offense Improved in 2017

Posted Feb 13, 2018

Check out how the 49ers offense made drastic improvements under Kyle Shanahan compared to the previous two seasons.


Now that Jimmy Garoppolo is locked up to a five-year contract extension, it seems like an opportune time to track the San Francisco 49ers year-over-year improvements from 2015-17. Garoppolo was obviously a catalyst down the stretch for San Francisco’s big numbers offensively. Matt Maiocco of NBC Sports Bay Area expertly laid out the 49ers increased production with Garoppolo under center.

But the Kyle Shanahan effect was felt starting in Week 1. Given the 49ers 0-9 start, it’s easy to forget that Brian Hoyer posted two 300-yard passing games. C.J. Beathard also threw for more than 275 yards in two games. Garoppolo had four such games in his five starts to close the season. That’s eight games of at least 275 passing yards from 49ers quarterbacks in 2017. From 2015-16, San Francisco’s QBs only had four such games over those two seasons.

Here are some glaring numbers illustrating the offense’s overall improvement in 2017.

Notable Numbers


Points Scored (league rank):

2017 – 20th

2016 – 27th

2015 – 32nd

The 49ers scored 20.7 points per game last season. There’s still plenty of room for growth to get into the top half of the league, but it’s still markedly better than the previous two years. More on this in a second.

Total Yards:

2017 – 12th

2016 – 31st

2015 – 31st

The fact that Shanahan helped San Francisco establish a top 12 offense (349.2 yards per game) in his first year as a head coach validates why he was a heralded candidate last offseason.

First Downs:

2017 – 11th

2016 – 30th

2015 – 31st

This number shows that the 49ers didn’t rely on home run plays and were able to move the ball consistently.

Passing Yards: 

2017 – 9th

2016 – 32nd

2015 – 29th

These dramatic increases illustrate a few things. For starters, it shows how anemic the 49ers passing game was in the two seasons prior to the Shanahan era. Secondly, it shows how much he was able to accomplish after inheriting an offense that spent multiple years in the cellar.

Percentage of Drives Ending in Points:

2017 – 9th

2016 – 29th

2015 – 29th

Again, this shows that San Francisco was able to consistently move the ball throughout games. The 49ers scored points on 37.5 percent of drives in 2017 compared to 27.4 percent in 2016 and 25.8 percent in 2015. San Francisco’s offense also averaged 5.99 plays per drive, which ranked sixth in the NFL.

Room for Improvement


Red Zone Percentage:

2017 – 27th

2016 – 2nd

2015 – 31st

When the 49ers made it inside the 20-yard line in 2016, they usually scored touchdowns (68.2%). The problem is that San Francisco rarely made it into the red zone that year. The storyline was reversed in 2017, when the offense regularly found itself in scoring range but usually had to settle for field goals. The 49ers only converted 47.1 percent of red zone trips into touchdowns. Untimely penalties played a huge part in that inefficiency. So, too, did the lack of an elite receiving threat who could dominate a 1-on-1 matchup in tight spaces.

If there’s one area where San Francisco must improve in 2018, this is it. That’s the only way Shanahan can turn his productive offense in terms of yardage into one of the league’s top scoring groups.


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